Monday, January 3, 2011
Mr. Borges' garden. By Maria Kodama
Illustration by arch. Matteo Pericoli
A certain house in the Buenos Aires neighborhood of Recoleta has a window that is doubly privileged. It overlooks a courtyard garden of the kind known here as a pulmón de manzana — literally, the lung of a block — which affords it a view of the sky and an expanse of plants, trees and vines that meander along the walls of neighboring houses, marking the passage of the seasons with their colors. In addition, the window shelters the library of my late husband, Jorge Luis Borges. It is a real Library of Babel, full of old books, their endpapers scribbled with notes in his tiny hand.
As afternoon progresses and I look up from my work to gaze out this window, I may be invaded by springtime, or if it’s summer, by the perfume of jasmine or the scent of orange blossom, mingled with the aroma of leather and book paper, which brought Borges such pleasure.
The window has one more surprise. From it, I can see the garden of the house where Borges once lived, and where he wrote one of his best-known short stories, “The Circular Ruins.’’ Here, I can move back and forth between two worlds. Sometimes, following Borges, I wonder which one is real: the world I see from the window, bathed in afternoon splendor or sunset’s soft glow, with the house that once belonged to Borges in the distance, or the world of the Library of Babel, with its shelves full of books once touched by his hands?